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Four area school districts will help prepare a model for a national classroom program in connection with a Smithsonian Institution exhibition, "Science in American Life," in 1993.

Occidental Chemical Corp. will spend $1 million on the local program, jointly announced Thursday by Smithsonian and Occidental officials at Buffalo's new $20 million Science Magnet School.

The Buffalo Board of Education voted Dec. 13 to allow two Buffalo science teachers to join the local steering committee. Other districts participating are Grand Island, North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls. The districts are all in municipalities that have Occidental facilities.

With two teachers from each school district, the panel will create a classroom program in conjunction with the $4.5 million exhibit, financed by the American Chemical Society and scheduled at the Smithsonian in two years.

"Science in American Life," to open in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, is aimed at interesting students in science careers.

In a region where Occidental for years has been a federal defendant in the Love Canal and other cases, company President J. Roger Hirl emphasized Occidental employees' interest in education.

The largest group of Occidental scientists is in Western New York, he said, so it was the logical location for a multiyear program.

Hirl asked where the next generation of scientists would come from, and as he spoke, Science Magnet students, with their own science displays and experiments, listened behind the lineup of television and news cameras.

Hirl said the program has two aims:

"The first is to show how science and society are seamlessly woven together," he said. "The second objective is to present role models."

Roger Kennedy, director of the National Museum of American History, hailed Occidental as a corporation and as the museum's industrial partner.

Judith Fisher, president of the Buffalo Board of Education, said the site of the announcement -- the Science Magnet -- is unique because of its direct connection with the Museum of Science.

"We knew that we were building a school for science education that would change science education," she said.

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